Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cherokee Names and Legends

Elevation 4458 Ft.
Chattahoochee National Forest
In Cherokee mythology the mountain was one
of the homes of the Nunnehi or Immortals,
the “People Who Live Anywhere,” a race of
Spirit People who lived in great townhouses
in the highlands of the old Cherokee Country.
One of these mythical townhouses stood near
Lake Trahlyta. As a friendly people they
often brought lost hunters and wanderers to
their townhouses for rest and care before
Guiding them back to their homes. Before
the coming of white settlers, the Creeks
and Cherokees fought a disastrous and bloody
battle at Slaughter Gap between Slaughter
and Blood Mountain.

The historical marker gives interesting information about early dwellers in our land. The Cherokee who were in Union County long before the white settlers left us many names and legends that, though sometimes sad, enrich our land and lend much food for thought. The historical marker on Blood Mountain gives a taste of both legend and real history, and helps us know why the mountain was named Blood.

First, to the myth about the Nunnehi, immortal people. These were believed to be the immortals who dwelt in these mountains. Their task was to help all who traveled and needed assistance of any sort. We can only imagine how overwhelming was their tasks when the Creeks and Cherokees met in battle at Slaughter Gap near Blood Mountain. It is said the blood ran down so profusely from the dead and wounded that the whole area was covered in blood. Hence the names, Blood Mountain and Slaughter Gap.

Prior to the Revolutionary War, the Cherokee had made contact with English, French and Spanish settlers. They had learned to trade and make bargains with the European colonists. We find many instances of Cherokee leaders negotiating with traders and government officials. Oftentimes, the Cherokee would make raids against the settlers. Living on the frontier in those days was fraught with danger. In the Revolution, the Cherokee sided with the British against the colonists.

In 1791 at what was called the Holston Conference, Cherokee-American negotiations were somewhat stabilized. There followed several treaties in which Cherokee land was ceded to states and the federal government. By 1819, the Cherokee Nation was left with about ten million acres of their former land holdings. Some of the Cherokee began to move to western lands in the early 1800’s. The Overhill Cherokee that had remained in the mountains of Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee were the most adamant against moving west. In 1828, the government of Georgia declared Cherokee law null and void. Governor Gilmer, with the support of President Andrew Jackson, sent troops to push the Cherokees out. The next governor, Wilson Lumpkin, continued to push for Cherokee removal. Many had left before the final exodus and the Trail of Tears that began under the military direction of General Winfield Scott in 1838.

When white settlers began to come into what became Union County in 1832, some Indians remained but most had already moved.

The town of Blairsville was incorporated on December 26, 1835 and became Union’s county seat. Two reports exist about whom the town was named for. In his Georgia Place Names, Kenneth Krakow states that it was named for Francis Preston Blair (1791-1876), a Kentuckian, editor of The Washington Globe newspaper which was established to support Andrew Jackson’s presidency. The fine house in which F. P. Blair lived in Washington was purchased for government property and is now known as the Blair House.

The other person (probably more authentically) for whom the town of Blairsville was named was Captain James Blair. He was an official Cherokee Indian agent, born in Augusta County, Virginia in 1761, and listed as working in Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas as an Indian agent between the years of 1801-1835. The naming of our county seat town for this Blair was declared in “The Blair Family Magazine,” Volume 8, No. 3 in the Fall of 1990 by researcher Margaret Vance Webb. She tells how James Blair worked to settle land claims and to assist with Cherokee removal from Georgia. In Habersham County, Georgia, where Georgia Highways 115 and 105 intersect, a historical marker indicates that spot as where the “Blair Line” crossed. The historical marker reads: “It was a line between the state of Georgia and the Cherokee Nation, surveyed by Captain James Blair in the early 1800’s. The line extended from the forks of the Soque and the Chattahoochee Rivers in a direct northerly line to the Tallulah River. It was the boundary line in 1817 for all the lands east of the Chattahoochee River by the State of Georgia from the Cherokee Nation by the Treaty of 1818.”

This abbreviated sketch merely hits the high places of the stormy era of our history prior to and leading up to Cherokee Removal. Each time you hear a name, like Walisiyi, Trahlytah, Arkaquah, Coosa, Choestoe, and many more, know that the Cherokee left place names where they once lived, names that we now take for granted in our familiarity with our beloved county. Honor the names and the land left to us. They came our way at great sacrifice and with much heartbreak.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 20, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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